The French proverb "On ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre"

You are in the right place to find out everything you have to know about the basic French proverb “On ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre”.

It includes a full definition of what it mean and how to use it in a conversation with an audio example. And because we want to help you on your learning journey, we also sprinkled some super useful stuff like slow pronunciation audio, dialogue example, synonym and more!

Oh and you can find more proverbs guides like this one on this page plus the ultimate list of all our French words content on this page. Wish you a happy learning!

Table of Contents

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French to English

How to pronounce

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?


It literally means:

  • On ne peut pas → We can’t
  • avoir → have
  • le beurre → the butter
  • et → and
  • l’argent → the money
  • du beurre → from the butter

This French expression became common during the 20th century. It means we shouldn’t want to win everything on all levels with nothing in return.

The common sense is that we cannot honestly sell the butter we have just made, keep the money, but also keep the butter, in order to sell it again and again.

The English language has a very similar proverb: “You can’t have your cake and eat it too“.

How to use it

When someone is too greedy and wants everything with no compensation, you can use this proverb as a reminder to make this person realize he/she needs to make a compromise. Use “On ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre“.

You will find similar proverbs in the “Synonyms” section below, but they are much less common than this one.

Fun stuff

There is also a dirty variation of this proverb: “On ne peut pas avoir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et le cul de la crémière.” which literally means: “We can’t have the butter, the money from the butter and the dairy girl’s ass


  • On ne peut pas avoir le lard et le cochon. (We can’t have the bacon and the pig)
  • On ne peut pas ménager la chèvre et le chou. (We can not spare the goat and the cabbage)
  • On ne peut pas être au four et au moulin. (We can’t be at the oven and at the mill)

Dialogue example with audio

Audio dialogue by French natives

Dialogue audio

Dialogue transcription

” J’hésite entre faire la fête ou me reposer “
” I hesitate between partying or resting “
” On ne peut pas avoir le beurre et… “
” You can’t have the butter and… “
” … l’argent du beurre. Je sais ! “
” … the money from the butter. I know! “
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